Disclaimer: This is a non-profit tribute to the works of JK Rowling who created and, together with her publishers and licensees, owns the characters and settings elaborated herein.

A/N: Thanks to all my reviewers and especially to my previewers Bellegeste and Lady Memory, who supported me through multiple drafts of this chapter.

After Professor Snape reveals his true feelings to a newly graduated Hermione, an unexpected friendship develops and deepens. But no man is an island, and no couple either, and the past casts a long shadow.

(From Hermione's previous letters:

Dear Harry, How do you really feel about me and Severus? (ch 42)

Hi Colin, You did give me all the photos you took at my birthday, didn't you? You're sure you didn't miss any? (ch 38) )

Ouch, Hermione. How can you ask me that?

I don't know. That's the short answer. You'll always be my friend. You were when you fancied Lockhart, and you still are if you fancy Snape, but for the rest I just don't know. Maybe in six months or six years or six lifetimes I could tell you.

Look, I get that he's really, really sorry for telling the prophecy and accidentally (if that's the right word) getting my parents killed, and going off at me all the time when he had to teach me. I get that the hatred I always felt rolling off him was about him, not me, that it was for him, not me. I even get that he's a good person who went wrong, not the evil git he seemed. But he did do all of that, and it ruined my childhood. It almost ruined me. I can forgive him, but how can I forget it?

Can I forget that my parents died when they were barely older than we are now? Can I forget that I got to live with people who hated me and made me feel it every day? (Although, if Snape could make such a good show of hating me when he inwardly meant me the best, maybe it's true for them too? Or Aunt Petunia, anyway. Ugh, that turns everything wrongway up.) Can I forget that I've had to spend my whole life as some big pretend-hero in the world's eye because he gave the prophecy to the one idiot who could make it self-fulfilling?

What do you think, Hermione, can I?

I'm not going to blow up at you, but do you think I'm stupid? I was there when Harry got your letter and when he couldn't tell me what it was for, that was a dead giveaway. It's Snape, isn't it? You're insane is all I can say, completely nutters. But all the more reason for your friends to support you so we can be there to pick up the pieces when you need it.

Still and always your friend


You two are the best friends ever. Who knew I'd learn to be grateful to a troll?

Harry, of course you can't forget it. I'd never expect you to. But together, perhaps we can eventually make enough happier memories to draw the venom from the wound. He's more like you than you know. You'll never need to pick up the pieces for me, Ron, but I thank you so very much for offering.


What did you do!? Hermione's asking about the other photo. How does she even know?


Tell her there wasn't one.

It wasn't a lie. There were two: the one they'd cut and spliced to hide her prank, and the copy she'd trimmed back and Confunded into unrestraint. It was deeply creepy to see Snape smile like that at Hermione, and Hermione smile back. But not creepy enough, apparently; she'd have to spice it up.